Many German baby names work internationally, although Germany places some restrictions on the German names you can choose. Find a list of the top German boys’ and girls’ names.
The good news is that you will find many German baby names that work internationally if you’re planning on having a baby in Germany. However, while some countries allow any name, Germany is known for being a little stricter. German names typically must be approved during the process of getting a German birth certificate, meaning parents can be over-ruled if they choose an inappropriate German boys’ or girls’ name.
This guide looks at the most popular German names, as well as historical trends in German baby names, including lists of German names for boys and girls:
- German names
- Popular German baby names
- Top German boys’ names
- Top German girls’ names
- Historical German baby names
- German fertility rate
Germanic names often consist of more than one German first name given by the parents (Vornamen), followed by a family name, for example Anna Leisbeth Welle. There are plenty of masculine, feminine and unisex names with Germanic origin, used in Germany as well as in German-speaking Austria and Switzerland.
The German alphabet has 26 letters, similar to English, although German also includes combined letters and three umlauted vowels (ä, ö and ü). Using certain letters can mean your baby name’s will be pronounced differently in English and German; J and W, for example, are pronounced differently in German, while ‘th’ can also be hard.
The challenge is, however, finding a German baby name you like that will also be welcomed by their peers. Germany believes that names should protect the well-being of the individual, rather than defame them, and as such imposes several restrictions on choosing a German name. Suggestions of appropriate German names are suggested on the back of some birth registration forms.
Restrictions on German names
Children can have several German first names, which traditionally are inspired by relatives. However, with the aim to protect the well-being of children, there are some restrictions on German first names to reduce chances of being ridiculed. As such, German first names must be officially approved by the Standesamt (local office of the population register).
Thus German first names must:
- be recognised as proper names – they cannot be absurd or degrade the child in any way.
- not associate with evil (eg. Satan or Judas) or be insensitive to religious feelings (eg. Christus or Jesus cannot be German names).
- not be a brand, a surname, an object or the name of a place.
- indicate the child’s gender – if a neutral German first name is chosen, then a second name must be added that is gender specific.
- must not cross gender – a boy’s name cannot typically be chosen for a girl and vice versa (with the exception of Maria, which can be placed as a boy’s second name).
If you plan to choose an unusual baby name, it is possible to ask your local Standesamt in advance to see if there will be a problem. The decision is made by the Standesamt where a baby is born in Germany. In some cases, German name restrictions may be relaxed when a parent is foreign to consider the naming laws in your home country, although this is not obligatory.
There are no official statistics on popular German names, however, an analysis of German birth certificates by First Names Germany found that Mia, Emma, and Sofia/Sophia were the top three German female names in 2016. Ben, Paul and Jonas were the top German names for boys. As in most countries, the list of popular German names changes annually typically influenced by trends, tradition and popular sports and television stars.
For international names, some German boys’ names are similar to English names, such as Benjamin, David, Dennis and Daniel (although pronunciation sometimes differ).
The name Ben was reportedly the most popular German boys’ name in 2016, and forecast to also top 2017, with Noah and Elis also joining the top ranks.
Lists of German names can be found on a variety of German websites, such as www.beliebte-vornamen.de who estimated that around 16 percent of all boys had a German name in the top 10 in 2016. The most popular German names for boys in 2016 were:
Statistics show that 17 percent of baby girls born had a name in the top 10 most popular German female names. The top German names for girls was reportedly:
In the early 1900s, German names with strong constants were popular, such as Friedrich, Heinrich and Wilhelm for German boys’ names, or Bertha, Elisabeth, Gertrud, Frieda, Margarethe and Maria for German girls’ names.
Certain classical names have largely fallen out of popularity or been adapted, such as Elfriede, Hildegard, Irmgard and Lieselotte for German female names.
On the other hand, some classical German names remained popular for several decades during the 1900s, meaning today you can find many German first names such as Günter, Hans, Jürgen, Karl, Klaus, Michael, Peter, Stefan, Thomas, Walter and Uwe. German names for girls, however, tended to change more often, although Ursula enjoyed several decades as one of the top names in the early to mid 1900s.
Over time the most popular German names have tended to get shorter, with boys’ names such as Finn, Jannik, Jonas, Leon, Luca, Lukas, Niklas, Tim and Tom enjoying popularity during the 2000s. German girls’ names followed the trend, with names such as Hannah, Julia, Lara, Laura, Lea, Lena, Lisa and Sarah being some of the popular names during the same period.
Other classic German names that were popular at various periods during the 1900s are still relevant for today, shown below.
Traditional German names for boys
- Fritz (an old nickname for Friedrich)
Traditional German names for girls
The fertility rate in Germany is currently around 1.50 children per woman (compared to around 1.9 in US and UK), with the share of newborn children born to unmarried parents more than doubling in the last 25 years. Fertility is highest among women between 26 and 35 years. Germany’s fertility rate has traditionally seen slow growth, not recording a similar fertility rate (1.51 children per woman) for more than 30 years.
Names such as Sabine and Thomas were popular during Germany’s baby boom in 1964, one of the highest peaks in Germany’s fertility rate, with Helga and Hans being among the top names of their parents’ generation.